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Liens used for payment of demolitions
The City of Brunswick has filed a $5,745.00 tax lien on Abysinia Baptist Church on Albany Street to insure the church's payment for participating in the city's demolition program earlier. Photo by Bobby Haven
The city of Brunswick has a relatively new method for collecting money it is owed by partners in demolition projects.

It simply files a lien against the property where a structure was razed until it gets what it's owed.

The city of Brunswick has operated a demolition assistance program to aid owners of dilapidated structures in the city in tearing eyesores down for several years now.

The program applies to low to moderate income Brunswick property owners and has served more than 20 proprietors since its inception.

It's a good program aimed at helping clean up the city, said Dick Newbern, property maintenance and demolition coordinator for Brunswick, but it's not without its caveats.

Even churches that reach out to the city for help are added to the lien list.

In late 2013, Brunswick approved a grant for the Abysinia Baptist Church, 2501 Albany St., which allowed for the demolition and removal of a dilapidated house next door, at 2516 Albany St. Once the work was complete, the city billed the church, then, following its procedure, filed a lien in the amount of $5,745 against the property until the church pays the bill.

"We entered into a public-private partnership to demolish the dilapidated house," Newbern said. "It's part of our procedure to inspect the house for asbestos and remove the asbestos. We did that, and then we demolished the house and carried it off. Then we sent a bill for the church's portion. As part of the agreement, we file a lien on the church's property until they pay their portion."

Newbern said the lien is a way of protecting city taxpayers against those who might take advantage of the program by accepting assistance then failing to pay their share.

The church, he said, is not currently delinquent on its return payment to the city.

Once a property has been cleared of a dilapidated structure, the owner is responsible for maintaining the vacant lot, he added.

"(The city of Brunswick) is committed to a three-pronged housing policy," Newbern said. "To assist with rehabilitation of owner-occupied substandard houses, to encourage home ownership and to demolish dilapidated structures. We're moving ahead on that goal."

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